Monday, October 17, 2011

Italian Roots in Indiana

Written by Laura McCaffrey

If you were unable to attend the Mather Lecture for October, reading THE STONECUTTER’S ARIA is perhaps the next best thing to being there. Carol Faenzi, of Indianapolis, presented the lecture and authored the book.

THE STONECUTTER’S ARIA covers a century in the tumultuous life of a real Italian family who immigrates to America to find a better life and eventually ends up in Indiana. Faenzi writes about her own family history and these are actual people’s lives we are reading about.

Just as though the book were an actual opera, each character tells their story as it relates to the time and place. The story begins during the late 19th century with the Giovannoni family in Carrara, the marble capital of the world and also home to an opera company. Music and marble have been in the family for generations, but hard times and promise of opportunity send the more adventurous to America. Such a one is Aristide Giovannoni who marries Ione and has children before he leaves for America and a new life. Ione and the surviving children follow and we get a steerage view of travel from Italy to America in the early twenties. The cities in the east are fine but too many Italian grocers compete and since Aristide and many other Italian immigrants are stonecutters they go where work is. Indiana.

The quarries of southern Indiana need for skilled workers create the influx of a sizeable Italian population in Indianapolis and other areas. The day to day life of the Giovannoni and Faenzi family become more complex and provides somewhat of a microcosm of life in the Great Depression. Oddly enough, the stonecutters prospered because the government and others erected many public buildings and Indiana limestone was a prime component. World War II presented some obstacles and the next generation went different ways.
Later, Faenzi herself will become one of the voices as she sought her heritage here and in Italy. Through her efforts, we can realize what drew these hardworking and talented people to Indiana and what they have added to our heritage. Researching for my reading, I discovered that Italians were also attracted to the mines in Southern Indiana. This made me understand why Clinton, Indiana in Vermillion County has an Italian Festival

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